Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme, which means it digests or breaks down protein. It’s found in fresh or raw pineapple and is used as a digestive aid or to treat muscle injuries.
The enzyme is a natural occurring anticoagulant, which works by breaking down the blood-clotting protein fibrin. Two clinical trials suggest that the enzyme can help to improve symptoms of angina and thrombophlebitis. In addition to thinning the blood bromelain also thins mucus. This could be a benefit to asthmatics and chronic bronchitis sufferers.
Evidence also shows that it can trigger beneficial changes in white blood cells and therefore, improve the immune response. Clinically it hasn’t been established whether bromelain would be beneficial to immunocompromised individuals.
The results of one study found evidence that suggested that it could improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Bromelain is a potent anti-inflammatory. The enzyme may be useful in promoting healing in minor muscle injuries such as strains and sprains. When it’s applied topically it may speed healing in wounds.
Some suggest that bromelain has anti-cancer properties, but this isn’t supported by any clinical trials. Several studies have linked chronic inflammation to cancer and if this is true this may be the reason.
It also may enhance the effect of antibiotics: penicillin, amoxicillin, and erythromycin. In a study with people who had urinary tract infections, 100 per cent of the participants given an antibiotic in combination with bromelain and trypsin, another enzyme, all were cured of their infection. In individuals who only took an antibiotic alone 46 per cent were cured.
The enzyme is generally considered safe and side effect free when taken as directed. Some people may be allergic to it, because it comes from pineapple. It’s not recommended for people with gastric or duodenal ulcers. It’s also not recommended to be taken by individuals taking any anticoagulant drugs such as Coumadin or Heparin.
Bromelain is measured in MCUs, which is short for milk clotting units or GDUs, which is short for gelatin dissolving units. One GDU is roughly equivalent to 1.5 MCU. Potent bromelain products contain approximately 2,000 MCU per gram. Some doctors recommend taking up to 3,000 MCU three times a day for a couple days then decreasing the dose to 2,000 MCU three times a day.